“Biltz letter” from 1909

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. Life in general has been keeping me busy and I haven’t been able to spend as much time on my family research as I’d like. However, I have been plugging away at it when I can find the time.

And now I am completing a major project, one that has involved finding all sorts of new information about my Biltz ancestors, as well as tying together various names and anecdotes about this family that I have gathered through the years. The final step in this project is to share here a letter written by Karl Eduard Kühnert in Chemnitz, Germany (pictured at the top of this page) to his relative Ferdinand Gerhard Walther in St. Louis, Missouri.

Walther’s wife was Bertha Emilie Biltz, the second daughter of the Franz Julius Biltz I have often mentioned in this blog. Kühnert’s grandfather, on the other hand, was Franz Julius’ uncle, Gottlob Friedrich Biltz. This makes Kühnert and Bertha Walther nee Biltz second cousins.

The letter is dated March 4, 1909. Franz Julius died November 19, 1908. Kühnert had presumably heard of the death of his relative in America and was writing once again to reestablish contact with the American branch of his family.

He mentions in the letter that he has visited the United States on occasion, and that at least two of his children settled down there. He also mentions other people and events pertaining not only to the Biltz family but also to the Saxon Emigration, in which Franz Julius Biltz partook, including time that Kühnert spent with C.F.W. Walther. This letter also sheds definitive light into details about the story behind the inheritance Franz Julius forfeited when he emigrated to Missouri.

Thanks to the Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis, I was able to receive a copy of this letter. Below you can find a copy of the narrative portion of the letter interspersed with the transcription I made. This is followed by my translation of the letter, which started with a rough translation using the online service DeepL. The final document is a chart showing all the names mentioned in the letter and how they related to each other.

Don’t diss my distant relative!

Previously in this blog I mentioned the novel “The Chronicles of Manuel Alanus” written by Leopold Ernest Wyneken. Last week I happened across an old review of this book that appeared in the San Francisco Sunday Call on February 14, 1909 (second column in the lower half of the page). After reading the review I get the impression that the author didn’t like the book, but you can see for yourself by clicking on the scan below.

Oh well, there’s no accounting for taste.

A Biltz communion chalice

While doing research on my behalf into the Biltz family, Frau Eva-Marie Jülich looked into a lead that the church in Mittelfrohna possessed a communion chalice that was commissioned in 1820 in honor of a “Faktor Biltz” by this person’s children. I’m not sure whether the German word “Faktor” should be translated as “factory owner” or “merchant”, but in any event this person could only have been my 5 x great grandfather, Gottlob Friedrich Biltz (1750-1820).

Frau Jülich made inquiries at the parish office Niederfrohna/Mittelfrohna and learned that they had two old chalices but that they were currently away being restored so that the office was unable to see if they had inscriptions. This was back in May. By the end of September she still hadn’t heard back from the church office so she called up again and was informed that the chalices were still away being restored, by a silversmith in Klaffenbach. Frau Jülich knew that there is only one silversmith in Klaffenbach so she called him up, the silversmith Mathias Heck. Herr Heck confirmed that it was indeed he who was doing the restoration, but at the time he was unable to tell Frau Jülich what the inscription was.

I had to wait until the 10th of November for a message from Frau Jülich reporting that  one of the chalices was indeed the Biltz chalice we had been looking for! Herr Heck has sent Frau Jülich and me photographs and documentation about the chalice, and in turn Frau Jülich provided Herr Heck with the chalice’s background story, for which Herr Heck was very grateful.

The following is a list of Gottlob Friedrich’s sons who presumably commissioned the chalice in 1820, the year of their father’s death: Gottlob Friedrich (1780-1856), Christian Friedrich (1784-1827), Carl Gottlob (1788-1834), Ludwig Gottlob (1793-?) and Wilhelm Gottlob (1795-1843). The following daughters might have been alive in 1820 but presumably they did not have the means to take part in the commissioning: Christiane Friedericke (1781-?), Caroline Friedericke (1791-?). Although the inscription does say “all of the children” – see below.

I am descended from Gottlob Friedrich’s son, Christian Friedrich, by way of the latter’s son, Franz Julius, who hadn’t been born at the time his grandfather died.

Thus this chalice is a physical object that reflects a small part of my family history, i.e the Biltz family in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.

The inscription:

Der Kirche zu Mittelfrohna verehrten diesen Kelch zum Andenken die hinterlassenen sämtlichen Kinder des selig verstorbenen Gottlob Friedrich Bilz zu Limbach – Anno 1820


All of the surviving children of the late sainted Gottlob Friedrich Bilz from Limbach dedicated this chalice in his memory to the parish in Mittelfrohna – In the year 1820

Please take a look at Herr Heck’s web page at http://silberschmiede.com/ because it showcases many beautiful pieces of this master silversmith’s craft, both original and given to him for restoration. In the section “Atelier” you can click on a 360 degree view of his workshop. In this view you can also walk out the workshop door to see the neighboring buildings and even visit some of the neighboring shops and sites. I think the webpage is very well done!

I told Herr Heck that I would be sharing his web site on my blog. I don’t think it’s very probable but — who knows? — maybe someone who reads this posting is looking for a master silversmith.

Erich Einegg

Yesterday evening I watched a DVD that I believe was sent to me a long time ago by a German Wyneken relative. I have vague memories that it might have been Erika, who sadly died last December, but I think I asked her once about it and she couldn’t remember anything about it, either.

The movie is titled “Irgendwo in Berlin”, which translates to “Somewhere in Berlin”. There is an English Wikipedia page about it, but the German Wikipedia page has a lot more interesting information about it so here is an English translation.

The movie was filmed in 1946 and was one of the first movies the allied occupation forces allowed the Germans to produce. The story is set in the rubble of Berlin. I don’t think the movie is a great masterpiece but I was nevertheless really moved by it. It depicts the wasteland that was Germany after World War II and the difficult task they were faced with in trying to get their country back going.

So where is the Wyneken connection? For the longest time I had no idea. If it really was Erika who sent it to me, was it maybe because she had settled down in Berlin as an adult? That doesn’t really make much sense.

And then at one point I noticed the name Erich Einegg in the credits. He was responsible for the music in the movie. Erich Einegg was only his stage name, though. In reality his name was Wulff Wyneken (1898-1966). Wulff was descended from a long line of military officers. Maybe that’s why he felt it necessary to use a different name for his musical career. He was active in the lively musical scene in Berlin of the 1920’s as a piano player and composer. His Wikipedia article says that he wrote pop songs, cabaret songs and chansons. He made a few records and wrote the music for three movies.

Was this maybe the reason that the person who sent me the DVD, whoever that was, sent it? I have the feeling I’ll never know for sure. But I’m glad I watched the movie and I’m glad to know the Wyneken connection.

Charles Brauer on the left, next to his friend and fellow actor buddy. When Charles was 11 he played the main boy character in “Irgendwo in Berlin”.

As an interesting footnote to people familiar with German television shows, when I looked up the name of the main child actor of the movie, Charles Brauer, in order to find out how old he was when he acted in the movie, I discovered I was very familiar with his face!

What goes around comes around

I was born in the Philippines as the son of a Lutheran missionary. One of the names I heard growing up there was Alvaro “Al” Cariño. He was the Filipino pastor who started Lutheran missionary work in the Philippines. The American missionaries that I knew while growing up there all came after him.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I found out more details about Al Cariño’s career. There is a Facebook page for the Lutheran Church in the Philippines that provides some details of his life. I also have other sources for these details (see bottom of page) but I’ll just give a brief overview here for the purposes of this blog.

Al Cariño moved to the United States in 1928. There he came into touch with a Lutheran church and soon became member in the congregation. He decided to become a Lutheran minister and to study to become a pastor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. He prepared for the seminary by attending preparatory school at St. Paul’s College in Concordia, Missouri. He graduated there and enrolled in St. Louis in 1933. He graduated from the seminary in the spring of 1937.

He then worked as a chaplain in the Cook County Hospital in Chicago from 1938 to 1940, where he also met his wife, Letty Jane Monroe.

In 1938 the convention of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod resolved to look into establishing missions in the Philippines. In the spring of 1940 Al Cariño travelled back to his home country to take the first steps in achieving this goal.

What particularly caught my eye in this narrative was the fact that Al attended preparatory school at St. Paul’s College in Concordia, Missouri. This is where Franz Julius Biltz comes into the story.

In 1860 Franz Julius accepted a call to be pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran church in the area. In 1865 he became postmaster there and named the post office “Concordia”. The town itself later took that name.

Franz Julius served in Concordia until 1901. During that time he not only founded other congregations in the area, he and his congregation were also instrumental in the forming of St. Paul’s College in 1883, the preparatory school that Al Cariño would later attend.

Then many more years later, in 1958, one of Franz Julius’ great great grandchildren set off on a freighter together with his wife to cross the Pacific and become a missionary in the Philippines, joining Al Cariño and other LCMS missionaries who had been there since the 40’s. This descendant of Franz Julius’ was my father.

I don’t know for sure but I wouldn’t at all be surprised if my father and Al Cariño knew each other personally. I somehow doubt, though, that either of them realized that they had something in common: a connection to Franz Julius Biltz in Concordia, Missouri.


  • Web site for St. Paul High School, current incarnation of the college, showing a picture of the campus including Biltz Hall (number 7).

The Biltz house today

Thanks to Frau Eva-Marie Jülich in Chemnitz I now have current photographs of the Biltz house I wrote about in an earlier post, in another post about inheriting this house, and in an article about the Biltz owners! It’s been a long hunt, but I’ve finally tracked it down and now know a bit about it’s current condition.

Frau Jülich writes that she was very disappointed by the house. She says that apparently nobody lives in it, that owners have disfigured it with new additions, and that it’s quite run-down.

The photographs she sent document her description. It’s sad, but that’s the way things go sometimes. The house did survive a difficult part of history, the division of Germany into east and west, and I’ve seen buildings in former East Germany that look a lot worse than this. On the other hand, 30 years after German reunification a lot of the east has been beautifully reconstructed.

Still, I am thrilled to finally have a successful conclusion to this part of my long hunt! I now have photographs of the house that my great great great grandfather Biltz almost owned and might even have lived in.

This is a great contrast to a couple of visits I’ve paid in the last decade to the locations of houses I used to live in as a child and in my early twenties. I choose the word “locations” on purpose because there is no longer any sign of the former buildings in those spots. That was always a huge disappointment.

Not so here.

Franz Julius Biltz’ immediate family

In this post we’ll be taking a look a detailed look at the people Franz Julius Biltz was familiar with from his day to day dealings.

Due to deaths and remarriages in the previous generation, Franz Julius and his various siblings are part of four marriages. There is the first marriage of his father, Christian Friedrich Biltz, to Johanne Landgraf. Together they had eight children. Then there is Christian Friedrich’s second marriage to Franz Julius’ mother, Sophie Ebert. Sophie Ebert, on the other hand, was previously married to Christian Louis Völker, with whom she had two children. After Franz Juius’ father died in 1837, his mother remarried again, this time to Johann Gottfried Lindner. This union produced two further children.

Thus in total Franz Julius had 12 half siblings! That sounds like a lot of brothers and sisters. However, when you take a close look at the data you see that there was a high mortality rate, not only among the husbands and wives, but also among the children.

Of the eight children of Christian Friedrich’s first marriage, only one survived past his first year. This was Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Biltz, who at the time of Franz Julius’ escape to the United States in 1838 was 26 years old and his 13 year half-brother’s legal guardian.

When Sophie Völker nee Ebert married Christian Friedrich, she already had two children. One of them was Louise Völker, the half-sister that emigrated to Missouri with Franz Julius. There was apparently also a Wilhelm Völker, too, but I know nothing about him. He presumably died at an early age.

Sophie and her third husband Johann Lindner had two children, Reinhold and Emilie, both of whom lived to adulthood and as a matter of fact also emigrated to the US, although separately from Louise and Franz Julius, possibly even separately from each other.

Click to open full size in a separate window.

Thus, Franz Julius actually only had four half-siblings. This can be seen in the chart on this page.

The blue color coding in the chart marks the Biltz relatives that either emigrated to or were born in the US. A reddish color coding also shows the relationships to each other of the Biltzes mentioned in my earlier post about the Biltz house in Mittelfrohna.

Similarly to the above families, Franz Julius himself and his wife Marie von Wurmb had a large number of children. A total of twelve children were their own and they adopted or were foster parents of two others. Here again, though, death took its toll of the children, taking five before they could celebrate their first birthdays. That left them with “only” seven children plus the two non-related girls.

The first two girls, Clara and Bertha, married into the Wyneken and the Walther families, respectively. Julius Friedrich Biltz and his wife Paulina Frerking are the ancestors of other American Biltz descendants that I have been in touch with. According to some reports Marie Biltz had the nickname “Mollie” and was the person who took care of her father in his later years. Bertha Winkler and Marie “Molly” Giesecke were part of the family, each of them was either adopted our was a foster daughter. I remember being confused for a long time whether there were one or two Bertha and Molly Biltzes. I believe to have found the answer in that there were two of each name in the family, one Biltz apiece and one apiece with different surnames.

The Biltz family also had three other sons who survived childhood but who do not appear in the chart. Theodor Julius was, like his father, a minister, but he died of pneumonia when he was only 26. Adolph Wilhelm was a druggist in Saint Louis, Missouri who remained unmarried and died in 1932 at the age of 74. There was another, younger brother, Gustav Heinrich, who died in 1890 at the young age of 24.

One penultimate comment concerning the chart. Please note that the possession of the house in Mittelfrohna changed hands between what at first sight looks like two different Biltz families.

I believe that the house must have been built or at least originally purchased or otherwise obtained by Franz Julius’ father, Christian Friedrich (1784-1827). It seems that his wife, Sophie nee Ebert, inherited it from her husband. After Sophie’s death the records show that Sophie’s daughter Louise Völker sold her share to Franz Julius’ half-brother, Christian Friedrich Wilhelm (1812-1848). This is the background for why the latter and his three daughters are marked in the chart as appearing in the records. The second Biltz family is that of Franz Julius’ cousin, Carl Wilhelm, and the latter’s daughter, Minna Flora.

A closer look however shows that the pivot between these two families is Hanna Theresia Engelmann, who married the two Biltz cousins. Thus all four of the Biltz girls in the right column of the chart who are mentioned in the house records have the same mother and are either sisters or half-sisters.

The final comment about this chart concerns Franz Julius’ grandfather, Gottlob Friedrich Biltz (1750-1820). The chart shows him having a first daughter, Johanna Dorothea Bayer, in 1775 when he was 25 years old. This girl’s baptism entry says that the mother was unmarried but that she named “Gottlob Biltz” as the father of the child.

The story behind this birth is that Johanna’s mother, Maria Dorothea Bayer, died shortly after childbirth. As a matter of fact so soon after Johanna was born that she and Gottlob Friedrich didn’t have time to marry. We can surmise that the two of them fell in love and had a child before they were able to make their relationship official.

The sources are not completely explicit about all the details but that seems to be a plausible explanation for how things happened. Additional evidence, for example, comes years later when the daughter marries. In the wedding entry she is listed as Gottlob Friedrich Biltz’ oldest daughter. In other records concerning Gottlob Friedrich’s other daughters they are numbered in a way that implies that his premarital daughter is being counted as his first daughter. In yet other records others of his children are listed as being from his “second” marriage, although as far as the records I have seen are concerned he was in reality only married once.

It looks like this part of Gottlob Friedrich’s personal history was accepted and acknowledged not only by his family and relatives but even by the clergy. I find that remarkable, but that’s what the evidence seems to suggest.

To be completely honest, this first extramarital daughter is somewhat conjectural but there are just so many hints that imply that things happened the way I depict them in the chart. It’s interesting to me how a girl that was initially entered in the church book as being illegitimate shows up in later church records as apparently being an acknowledged member of the father’s family.

The completely confusing conglomeration of Biltzes in this chart is typical of my experience with this family. It’s been an adventure trying to put the various pieces of this puzzle together throughout the years. But it’s especially satisfying now that it looks like that I have a pretty good handle on the family. I’m confident that the future will bring new questions and puzzles, however.

The picture at the top of this page shows the Biltz family grave at the Concordia Cemetery in Concordia, Missouri.

Another database update

I’ve just updated the on-line database of my Wyneken ancestors, starting with my great grandparents Martin Luther Wyneken II and his wife Eslinda nee Klein.

Again it’s been a long time since the last update. I’m not sure exactly what new information there is in the current version, but I’m sure that I’ve added quite a bit.

In addition to updating the content of the database, the presentation is also a bit more modern than in the previous version.

New Biltz database added

After several months of research I am finally publishing the results of my new research into my Biltz ancestors and the Biltz family in the area around Mittelfrohna and Limbach in Saxony. It has been a lot of work but I have been able to gather a lot of new data about this part of my family and I’m pleased to be able to share it with other Biltz descendants.

Please check out this page on the Wyneken Family History site.

The picture at the top of the page is of St. John’s Church (Johanneskirche) in Mittelfrohna (Niederfrohna, Zwickau district, Saxony), view on map.

My ancestors and the beginnings of the LCMS

Just a warning right from the start: This post is quite long and, considering that the group of people interested in Wyneken family genealogy and other families from whom I descend is pretty small to start with, this article probably reduces the numbers even more.

My father was a Lutheran minister in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). His great great grandfather, FCD Wyneken, was the second president of the synod. This connection with the LCMS is part of my background.

The beginnings of the LCMS can be found in a group of orthodox Lutheran dissidents who sought to escape from what they felt to be false teachings of the state church in Germany in the first half of the 19th century. Led by Martin Stephan, their plan was to leave their homes in the Old World and build something new for themselves in the New World, in the brand new nation the United States of America which was about 60 years old at the time.

Martin Stephan (1777-1846) was apparently quite a charismatic person. Stephan became the pastor of a congregation in Dresden, Saxony in 1810 and began to attract followers, people who were dissatisfied with the rationalist state church at the time. In 1824 he started to think that America might be a place where he and other like-minded people could practice their faith in freedom.

Over the years he gathered several pastors and pastoral candidates around him, along with quite a number of their parishioners and other people who sympathized with him and the other pastors. All of them were dissatisfied with the status quo. In December of 1838 a group of about 700 people sailed from Bremen in northern Germany headed for the new state of Missouri in the US. This group of people came to be known as the “Saxon immigrants“.

One of the ships sank on the way and in the end 602 people arrived in New Orleans in January of 1839. From there they traveled up the Mississippi river to Saint Louis, Missouri. Some of the group stayed in Saint Louis while the rest of them settled in an area next to the Mississippi in Perry County.

There were a number of pastors and pastoral candidates in Stephan’s inner circle. Next to Stephan, they were figures of authority in the group of immigrants. Here is a list of some of them who will play an important role later in this post:

  • Gotthold Heinrich Löber (1797-1849)
  • Theodore Julius Brohm (1808-1881), Stephan’s personal secretary
  • Otto Hermann Walther (1809-1841)
  • Carl Ferdinand Walther (1811-1887)

Now that we find our immigrants in the New World, we need to take a look back at things that had been happening in the background the previous few years. In Dresden, Martin Stephan had started holding private religious meetings in the evenings. The Saxon government was wary of Stephan and his doings, so at times he got in trouble with the police. He was accused several times of taking evening walks with some of his female followers. This may not sound like a problem in modern times, but at the time it was highly inappropriate behavior. His followers always held to him and supported him, saying that this was just an attempt by the state and the state church to attack Stephan.

On the voyage over from Germany Stephan began to develop authoritarian airs. At one point he gathered his pastors around and coerced them into signing a declaration giving him the office and title of “bishop”. In Saint Louis he gave orders that he was to get the best lodging and supplies while most of the other immigrants were still struggling. Stephan had a number of his women followers in his household to see to his needs. He also resumed his habit of taking evening walks with women. In addition, he had started making inappropriate use of the group’s shared funds.

All of this came to a head in May 1839. It is reported that after a sermon by pastor Löber (see above and the chart below) two women came to him separately and confessed to having had improper relations with Stephan. In the following days several other women, including Louise Völker (see chart below), made confessions of having committed adultery with Stephan or stated that Stephan had tried to seduce them. In the course of the next few weeks the scandal grew bigger and bigger until the group of immigrants as a whole rebelled against their “bishop”. The clergymen accused him in writing on May 30, 1839 of fornication and adultery, maladministration of the property of others, proclaiming false doctrine and other charges. They stripped him of his office and banished him from the settlement.

As a result of this scandal the whole group of immigrants fell into a deep depression, questioning whether it was correct of them to have come to the US in the first place. The group was indecisive and paralyzed for a long time, until in April of 1841 CFW Walther (see above and chart below) spoke up in a public debate and convinced the group that their goals in the New World were still valid. After that the majority of them chose to remain in Missouri.

A detailed description of all these happenings can be found in the book “Zion on the Mississippi: The Settlement of the Saxon Lutherans in Missouri 1839-1841” by Walter O Forster.

In 1844 my ancestor, FCD Wyneken, who at the time was working on his own in Fort Wayne, Indiana, read a copy of CFW Walther’s theological magazine Der Lutheraner and immediately recognized he had found a group of people who shared the same religious outlook that he did. From then on he stayed in close contact with Walther and the Saxons.

In 1847 the Saxon immigrants and other pastors and congregations formed what was later to be called the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. CFW Walther served as the synod’s first president from 1847 to 1850. FCD Wyneken succeeded him and served from 1850 to 1864, at which time CFW Walther took office again for his second term from 1864 to 1878.

So much for a brief history of the founding of the LCMS. In this next section we will look at a chart depicting some of my direct ancestors and how they fit in to the above story. It might be best, depending on how you are reading this article, to open the chart in a second window and switch back and forth to see where the names in the article appear in the chart. You could also look at text and chart on separate devices (computer, smart phone, tablet, etc.). Or if you don’t have enough screen space, maybe you could print out the text and view the chart on your screen. In any event, the following might get rather complicated to follow.

My ancestors and the beginnings of the LCMS

At the bottom right of the chart you see my great great grandparents: Clara Biltz and Martin Wyneken. Martin’s father was the above mentioned FCD Wyneken, second president of the LCMS.

Clara’s father was Franz Julius Biltz, who was one of Saxon immigrants. As I mentioned in an earlier posting, he was 13 years old at the time and went along with his older half-sister, Louise Völker, under somewhat irregular circumstances. Louise’s pastor was Ernst Keyl (1804-1872) who was one of the clergymen in the Saxon group. Keyl should actually appear in the chart, too, especially since he married Otto and CFW Walther’s sister, Amalie, but the chart is crowded enough as it is so I chose to leave these two out.

As mentioned earlier, Louise Völker was one of the women who confessed to having had adulterous dealings with Martin Stephan, thus leading to his fall, disgrace, and eventual expulsion from the group.

Franz Julius Biltz married Marie von Wurmb. Franz and Marie were students together at the log cabin school established in the Perry County settlement. Marie’s mother, Johanna von Wurmb nee Zahn and her husband, a former missionary to South Africa, had divorced before Johanna and her children joined the Saxon group. She was the log cabin school’s matron and was responsible for feeding the children. In 1843 Johanna married Theodore Julius Brohm, a pastor who had been Martin Stephan’s personal secretary and who was one of the teachers in the log cabin school.

Johanna’s sister, Wilhelmine Zahn, was also a member of the Saxon group. She had married Gotthold Löber long before the group left Germany. Löber was one of the group’s leading clergymen and it was his sermon that triggered the first women to confess their illicit relations with Martin Stephan.

Wilhelmine and Gotthold Löber’s daughter, Martha, married into the Bünger family. The above-mentioned book Zion on the Mississippi lists six members of the Bünger family who were between 26 and 11 years old when they journeyed to the US with the other Saxons. Two of Martha Löber’s Bünger sisters-in-law married the two leading Saxon clergymen: CFW and Otto Walther. This is how the Löbers and Zahns became related, by marriage, to the Walthers.

Biltzes, Walthers and Wyneken at Biltz home ca. 1900.
FJ BIltz seated at the left, with son Adolf. Ferdinand Gerhard Walther with wife Bertha nee Biltz, their son Julius sitting on ground. Biltz’ adopted daugher Bertha Winkler. Cousins Arthur Wyneken and Paula Walther. Mollie Biltz.

To complete the circle, CFW Walther and his wife Emilie Bünger had a son Ferdinand Gerhard Walther. Ferdinand Walther married Bertha Biltz. Bertha of course is the daughter of our Franz Julius Biltz and the younger sister of my great great grandmother Clara Wyneken nee Biltz.

It wasn’t until relatively recently that I realized there was actually a family link between the Wynekens and the Walthers. The photograph here shows a family get-together at the old homestead in Missouri. The young man pictured on the the right side of the picture is Arthur Wyneken, youngest son of Martin and Clara, visiting his grandfather Biltz, his Biltz uncles and aunts, and his Walther uncle and cousins.

I grew up hearing Wyneken relatives complaining about the fact the LCMS has a youth organization called the Walther League but that there’s nothing comparable in honor of the Wyneken name. Ah, these petty rivalries! And now I find out that the Walthers and the Wynekens were even related by marriage.

This article has turned out a lot longer than my articles usually are. I’m sorry about that, but this article does cover a lot of material.

To sum things up, after all the evidence presented above I am tempted to say that it if I didn’t exist, the LCMS would not have come about.

Hm. Maybe that’s not really how I should summarize this all up. I do believe, however, that this article does show how quite a large number of my direct ancestors and relatives played important parts in the happenings that resulted in the formation of the LCMS.

Dot Bonavito – world traveler

I was actually quite sure that I had written about Dot (official name Dorothea Louise) sometime before in this blog. I just looked now, though, and it seems I only mentioned her in passing in this post from 2016.

Dot’s maiden name was Schaller. She was born in 1922 in Portland, Oregon and died in 2009 in San Francisco. Her mother was Martha Koenig, a granddaughter of FCD Wyneken’s oldest daughter Louise. Her father was Alfred Schaller, a son of FCD Wyneken’s youngest daughter Pauline. Thus Dot has a double connection to the Wyneken family tree.

In 1944 Dot married Joseph Bonavito, but they parted ways for some reason the following year.

So much for the background. It’s the rest of her life that was really interesting. She joined the Foreign Services in 1948 and was first sent to post-WWII Germany. This was a natural choice since she grew up in a German speaking environment in San Francisco and thus knew the language.

But that was just the beginning! She discovered that she loved travelling and seeing the world. And that is exactly what she did.

I was fortunate to be able to get in touch with her in the last few years of her life. After many years living abroad, finally retiring in Paris, she returned to the US to spend her last years in San Francisco. Every time I think of her living there I wish I would have gotten around to paying her a visit during the time my parents lived in the area, too! But I never did.

The reason I’m writing about Dot now is that a second cousin once-removed of Dot’s asked me the other day whether I knew there was a book containing excerpts from Dot’s letters back home during her journey. I wasn’t, and indeed my heart leaped to find out there was!

The book was published in 2013 and is entitled I Did It My Way: The Travel Adventures of Dorothea Bonavito, 1948-2000. When I found out I immediately bought myself a Kindle copy. The book is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle. It can also be ordered from Sallie Crenshaw, the editor of the book, from https://dotstraveladventures.com. Click on the link to read a short description of what the book is about!

I still haven’t completely finished the book, but I’m enjoying every page of it. Having grown up outside of the US myself and relatively early in life moving to Germany, I find myself particularly intrigued by her international adventures. I’m sure anyone who has ever had the travel bug will thoroughly enjoy this book, too. There are also glimpses of historical happenings throughout the second half of the 19th century that she experienced more closely because of her travel and because she was in the US Foreign Service.

The photograph at the top of this page appears in the book and is taken from the website https://dotstraveladventures.com.

History of the Biltz house in Mittelfrohna

In the last two postings I talked about a house in the village Mittelfrohna in Saxony that was associated with my ancestor Franz Julius Biltz. I also mentioned the property records for the house that I was able to locate recently.

Franz Julius was not the only Biltz that these property records mention, they also make reference to other close relatives of his. As a matter of fact, the records show that the house belonged to the family for quite a while in the 19th century.

In addition, the first picture of the house that I obtained many years ago states that the house was originally built by a Biltz in 1784/1785. Presumably that was Franz Julius’ grandfather Gottlob Friedrich (1750-1820).

The records don’t explicitly say that Franz Julius’ father, Christian Friedrich (1784-1827), owned or lived in the house, but I believe that this must have been the case because Franz Julius wouldn’t have had any inheritance rights to it otherwise. Furthermore, the earliest entry in the records reports that the daughter of Christian Friedrich’s second wife sold the house to Christian Friedrich’s oldest son, Christian Friedrich Wilhelm (1812-1848). Presumably the daughter inherited the house from her mother when the mother died. The mother in turn would have inherited it from her husband when he died. This is another indication that the house was once Christian Friedrich’s property.

Relationship of the people mentioned in this post. (Click to enlarge)

The rest of this page lists dates of deaths of the owners and dates of transactions recorded in the property records. The property records are part of Bestand 30104, Amtsgericht Chemnitz, Nr. 5890, Folio 27 in the Staatsarchiv Chemnitz.

And finally, the illustration at the right depicts how all the people mentioned below were related to each other. The numbers in parentheses in the text below – for example “(4)” – refer to the numbers in front of the person’s name in this illustration.

10 Oct 1827

Christian Friedrich Biltz (1) dies.

14 Jul 1837

Johanne Sophie Biltz nee Ebert (2) dies.

25 Sep 1838

Caroline Louise Völker (3) sells the house to Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Biltz (4) for a little over 335 Thalers. I believe the house must have belonged to Christian Friedrich Wilhelm’s father, Christian Friedrich (1), and presumably Christian Friedrich’s second wife, Sophie Ebert (2), inherited it when he died. It seems that Louise (3), as Sophie’s oldest child, then inherited it from her mother. That might have been a bit irregular because it completely ignored Christian Friedrich’s (i.e. the original owner’s) two sons Christian Friedrich Wilhelm (4) and Franz Julius (5).

Louise Völker (3) and her half brother Franz Julius (5) emigrated to the US less than a month after this sale, so presumably Louise needed the money from the sale of the house for her emigration. It’s possible/probable that Christian Friedrich Wilhelm (4) knew Louise was planning to leave the country, but it seems that she didn’t tell him she was going to take Franz Julius with her because Christian Friedrich Wilhelm put an ad in the Chemnitz newspaper about his run-away half brother and ward.

19 Jan 1847

An entry in the record book that 300 Thaler plus 4% interest is owed to Franz Julius Biltz (5), who is attending the seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.

21 Nov 1848

Christian Friedrich Wilhelm (4) dies.

5 Mar 1849

Christian Friedrich Wilhelm’s (4) widow, Hanna Theresia nee Engelmann (6) buys her husband’s property from his estate.

Christian and Hanna’s three daughters, Rosalie Emilie (7), Amalia Augusta (8) and Anna Bertha (9), all not yet of age, agree to this sale to their mother.

The opposing page has an entry that the three sisters Rosalie, Amalia and Anna have a right valued at 300 Thaler plus 4% to purchase the property (“Kaufrecht”).

The three sisters are also granted “Herberge” (the right to reside in the house) until they marry.

27 Sep 1849

The 300 Thaler from 5 Mar 1849 are transferred to Anna Bertha (9) alone.

20 Nov 1849

Hanna nee Engelmann (6) marries her first husband’s cousin, (10) Carl Wilhelm Biltz.

26 May 1853

Franz Julius Biltz (5), by way of his lawyer in Chemnitz, acknowledges receipt of the 300 Thalers that was owed him according to the debt from 19 Jan 1847.

9 Jan 1860

Anna Bertha Schneider nee Biltz (9) acknowledges receipt of what is owed to her from 5 Mar 1849. Presumably because she married?

12 Mar 1876

The “Herberge” (right to reside in the house) is cancelled.

12 Mar 1877

A loan for 1800 marks (presumably using the house as collateral) by some entity in Burgstädt.

24 Dec 1879

Hanna Theresia Biltz nee Engelmann (6) dies

23 Jun 1880

Minna Flora Bauer nee Biltz (11) inherits the property as specified in her mother’s will. She is the daughter of Carl Wilhelm (10) and Hanna Theresia (6).

The loan from 12 Mar 1877 is paid off.

19 Aug 1880

A loan for 3300 marks (presumably using the house as collateral) by Gottlob Friedrich Klitzsch.

4 Jan 1881

Carl Wilhelm Biltz (10) dies.

25 Aug 1883

Due to somebody dying (presumably Anna Bertha) the right to sell (“Verkaufsrecht”) as specified on 5 Mar 1849 is cancelled.

5 Sep 1883

Minna Flora Bauer nee Biltz (11) sells the property to Christian Friedrich Ebert.


The property is put up for auction and finally purchased by Anne Marie Wilhelmine Ölbrich nee Zwicker from Berlin

Franz Julius Biltz’ inheritance

When F.J. Biltz escaped his guardian in Mittelfrohna with his half sister Louise, as I related in the last posting, he was only 12 years and three months old. They survived an arduous journey by ship across the Atlantic and a steamboat trip up the Mississippi river, finally to settle in Perry County, Missouri, close to the shores of the Mississippi. They arrived there in January of 1839. There he soon became one of the first eleven students, seven boys and four girls, in the log cabin school house in Altenburg, Missouri. One of these four girls was Marie von Wurmb, who ten years later would become his wife.

The first years in Perry County were not easy years. The community of immigrants was soon hit by a scandal surrounding their leader, who was soon kicked out and banished from ever returning. In addition to that there were the typical hardships involved in everyday pioneering: building shelter, providing for nourishment, dealing with diseases and death, and general daily survival. I’m sure that many of the settlers often thought back with fondness of the relative luxury they had left back in Germany. However, only a very few of them actually gave up and returned to the old country.

The story among F.J. Biltz’ descendants over a century and a half later was that after he had been in the US for a while he heard from his relatives in Germany that if he had stayed there he would have inherited a house and a share of a stocking manufacturing business back in his native Mittelfrohna. Unfortunately the lawyer representing him in the homeland was (according to complaints) prone to procrastination. Fortunately, the story goes, in the end Franz Julius was sent a complete and accurate accounting of his inheritance and was paid out his share.

This was the report that I had heard many years ago, and when I was looking for a contact person in the area of Mittelfrohna in the final months of 2019 I was hoping that I would find some information that would fill out details of this inheritance story. As hinted at in my previous posting, I was very successful.

In response to a request to the state archives in Chemnitz, a larger city very close to Mittelfrohna, they sent me pages from the old property records for Mittelfrohna. The page titled “Schulden” (i.e. “debts”) in these records mentions the name “Franz Julius Biltz”. Two times as a matter or fact!

The first time is an entry dated 19 January 1847 recording that 300 thalers from the property was owed to Franz Julius, who at the time was a year away from graduating at the seminary in St. Louis. The entry makes reference to an agreement from 1844. My guess is that that might have been the time when the local authorities realized that there were people besides the current owner of the house who had certain rights to the house. Three years after this agreement, in 1847, Franz Julius’ rights were then finally formally noted in the property records.

The second entry is dated 26 May 1853 and records that Franz Julius Biltz, through his lawyer, acknowledged the receipt of the 300 talers owed him. Thus in the end he did get the inheritance that was his by right.

There were six years between these two entries. This would seem to reflect the reality of the family tradition that Franz Julius’ German lawyer was not particularly zealous in his efforts to obtain the inheritance owed to his client.

So how much money was 300 thalers?

I’m not sure exactly how to go around figuring this out, but I did find one website that provided me with an estimate of about 15,000 modern day euros or dollars. That’s a pretty tidy sum!

By 1853, the year he received the money, he had been married to his old schoolmate for four years. He and his wife already had two baby daughters so there were mouths to be fed. They wound up having 12 children of their own and in addition adopted two further girls. Any additional funds would have been helpful in a situation like this, I’m sure.

Franz was certainly happy to receive this bit of extra cash. It was unfortunate that he had had to wait so many years for it, but the wait had certainly paid off for him.

The mystery of the Biltz house

The Biltz family group among my ancestors has until recently always been full of question marks in my mind. A lot of these question marks have recently been removed thanks to my recent dealings with a genealogist who lives in the area the Biltzes came from. The reason I’ve started a separate Biltz section on this web site is to share what I’ve been finding out about the Biltzes.

I remember the first time I even heard the name. My wife and I were visiting my great aunt Laura, the widow of my great uncle Ed (i.e. my Wyneken grandfather’s brother). She pulled out a number of family related items and one of them referred to a person whose last name was “Biltz”. I at first thought that must be a misspelling for the German word “Blitz” meaning “thunder”. But after a while I realized that that actually was the name: Biltz.

Through the years I learned more and more about the family. The first highlight was Franz Julius Biltz, the one who emigrated to the US. He didn’t just emigrate, though …

The emigration

Louise Völker, Franz’ half sister, joined the group of emigrants to Missouri that would later wind up forming the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) in St. Louis. She had promised her mother to take care of her younger brother, Franz, who was 13, and she was so convinced of the importance of this emigration that she took him with her.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t his legal guardian.

Not only that, she neglected to tell his legal guardian what was going on!

Franz’ legal guardian was his older brother, Christian Friedrich Wilhelm. Actually, Christian was also a half sibling. Christian and Franz had the same father but different mothers, whereas Franz and Louise had the same mother but different fathers. This is just one example of the complicated family relationships in the Biltz family.

Click on the chart to zoom!

The chart to the left graphically depicts the relationships between the various persons of this story.

(The family which Franz would, as a father, later help found was also marked by several “non-standard” relationships. There were daughters who had the first same name. There were children who were adopted and others who were foster children. It has taken me and other researchers lots of patience to figure out exactly who was who and how they fit in. I think in the end and with a lot of help from these other researchers, including other Biltz descendants and the helpful folks from LCMS archives, we finally got it all untangled.)

Newspaper ad from 28 October 1838 requesting help in finding the missing 12 1/2 year old boy Franz Julius Biltz

So, when Christian suddenly discovered that his younger brother and ward was missing, he took out an ad in the local Chemnitz newspaper calling for help in finding the run-away. In the meantime, Louise and Franz had traveled up to Bremen and joined the rest of the group. This whole trans-Atlantic odyssey by a group of Lutheran dissidents came to be known as the Saxon immigration because a large part of the group came from the German state of Saxony – cf. wikipedia article.

Franz and Louise settled down in Missouri and started new lives in the new world.

The house

Another part of the Biltz saga that up to now has been a big question mark in my mind has to do with reports that Franz at one point later in his life would have inherited a house and a factory if he had remained in Germany. According to the story, in the end he did get some payment for this inheritance.

When I visited my great aunt Laura I received from her another item that I’ve always thought might have something to do with this inheritance story but had never been able to confirm this. It was a photocopy from a book showing a photograph taken in 1889 of a house in Mittelfrohna, the town Franz was from. The implication was that this might be the house that Franz would have inherited.

I sent this photocopy to Frau Jülich, my genealogist contact in the Mittelfrohna area, asking if she could help me find out more about this house. She was very helpful and provided me with some extremely useful information.

Note the same basic shape of the buildings in the two pictures, the water pump in the same location and the fence along the angle of the road.

First of all, she found a book about the area that contained a drawing of a very similar house — with the name C.W. Biltz on the wall!

Secondly, she suggested that I send my question to the state archives in Chemnitz to see if they could locate the property records pertaining to the house in the first picture I had since the text under the photograph includes official details. Two days later the archive replied and sent me scans of the appropriate pages of the record books. And lo and behold, there were names that I knew all too well:

  • On the page entitled “Besitzer” (“owners”) there is an entry in which Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Biltz bought the house from Louise Völker on 25 September 1838. These are Franz Julius’ half brother and half sister
  • And on the opposite page entitled “Schulden” (“debts”) in an entry from 19 January 1847 is the name Franz Julius Biltz. At the time he was a “Cand. theol.”, in other words studying theology at the seminary.

I don’t understand all the details of the entry on the debts page, but it looks to me like there was some sort of agreement (“Konsens”) made in 1844 and in 1847 Franz is finally being paid 300 thalers (the word that “dollars” came from). Christian didn’t die until 1848 so it would seem that these dealings are not related to the property after Christian’s death but to Julius’ inheritance from his father and/or mother. I will continue doing research on the details of this entry and possibly report the results later.

As you can imagine, I was thrilled when I saw these names and realized I had found exactly what I was looking for. But then after I recovered from my initial jubilation I took a closer look at the dates and also noticed something else:

  • Louise Völker sold the house to Christian Biltz on 25 September 1838
  • Louise’ and Franz’ ship left Bremen for the US in mid October 1838
  • Christian placed a search ad in the newspaper for his ward on 28 October 1838

I was taken aback by the timeline. This seems to reflect a highly dramatic background story. Louise’ mother had probably inherited the house when Franz’ father died, and Louise inherited it from her mother when the mother died in 1837. Louise needed money to take with her on her trip to the US so she sold the house to Christian Biltz. Christian probably knew that Louise was going to emigrate, but she didn’t tell him that she was going to take Christian’s ward, Franz, with her. When Christian finds out he places the search ad but it was too late because the ship had already sailed.

That sounds like a good plot for a soap opera, doesn’t it?


Christian died on 17 November 1848. In entry 2 of the “Besitzer” page we see that his widow Anne Theresie nee Engelmann paid 106 thalers for her deceased husband’s property. I’m not exactly sure why she had to do this, but now she owns the whole property. The remaining entries on these pages record how the house remained the property of the Biltz family for a while more, but details will have to wait for another blog post.

Concerning Heinrich Christoph Wyneken’s last will

One of the places my family and I visited in a trip to northern Germany in 2001 was Verden because that’s where my great-great-great grandfather was born. His father, Heinrich Christoph Wyneken, was the pastor of the St. Andreas church there. St. Andreas is a small church located close to the cathedral. It is pictured on the left in the photograph above, the cathedral on the right.

St. Andres as photographed by me in 2001.

I am in touch with descendants of three of Heinrich Christoph’s children: Carl (founder of the America “Carl/Karl” branch), Gustav (no more “Wynekens”, but I’m in touch with the families), and of course FCD.

At some point Erika Wichmann, the German born wife of an FCD Wyneken descendant, sent me a copy of an article from the St. Andreas parish newsletter concerning Heinrich Christoph’s last will and testament. Last week Erika was kind enough to send me an English translation which I thought would be interesting to share here.

While my family and I were visiting Verden I was able to talk briefly to the pastor couple of the congregation at the time. They pointed out an old house across the street from the church as being the historical parsonage. This was presumably the house mentioned in the text below where the bailiff talked to the dying Heinrich Christoph.

Translated from the history of the St. Andreas Parish (38)

Heinrich Christoph Wyneken became pastor of the St. Andreas Parish in 1806. His grandfather had been a bailiff at Bremervörde; his father Moritz (*1722) wanted to become a preacher. He received his first position at Kappel in 1755, and moved on to Spieka in 1762 in the Wursten district. He died there as early as 1772. His son, Heinrich Christoph, born at Spieka in 1766, also became a preacher and was given the pastorate at Bexhövede, Cuxhaven district, in 1791 and held it for the next 15 years. In 1806, he was transferred to Verden to the St. Andreas Parish. He was granted only nine years in Verden, since he died rather early at the age of 49, the same as his father. He passed away in the fall of 1815.

His will was preserved in a bundle of files in the Verden district archives. It had led to all kinds of complications which are still of interest today. The will begins with this: Actum in the dwellings of Pastoris Wyneken on the 10th day of October 1815 (4 1/2 hrs in the afternoon). Present myself, Struktuarius Bailiff Mejer and the Struktur Voigt Bohde.

We then read on: After the pastor Heinrich Christoph Wyneken of our St. Andreas Church, who had been very ill for a long time with dropsy, had requested me to come and see him since he wished to place his last dispositions on record, I immediately went to his place together with the Struktur-Voigt Bohde. Pastor Wyneken was lying in his bed on the second floor in the parlor located immediately to the right of the staircase towards the front of the building. Wyneken declared: His own fortune had been used up in his marriage and might consist only of the purchased backyard behind the wall of the Parish backyard. Given this small remainder of his fortune, he does not deem it necessary to bequeath anything further; since this small fortune is to be left to his eleven children.

The actual content of his will follows after this provision: It is his express will, however, that his faithful and righteous wife Anna Catharina Louise, née Meyer, should be the only and sole guardian of his and her eleven children after his transition into eternity, and that no other guardian should be placed at her side against her own free will and choice, because he was absolutely convinced of her faithfulness and love for their children, and since she was furthermore a most righteous and good Christian, his children would be perfectly well protected under her discipline and guidance.

This provision was not as unusual as it may seem to us; indeed, after Wyneken’s passing, the Stade Consistory on November 9 approached the bailiff at Verden, requesting him to question the widow whether she was prepared to assume the guardianship of her children. This questioning took place at the same time as the opening of the will, i.e. on November 23, 1815. The minutes list the eleven children, i.e.:

  1. Heinrich Christian 22 years,
  2. Johann Heinrich Friedrich Conrad 19 years,
  3. Marie Elisabeth Henriette Sophie 18 years,
  4. Caroline Marie 17 years,
  5. Charlotte Friedrike 16 years,
  6. Johann Ernst Moritz 14 years,
  7. Carl Friedrich 12 years,
  8. Gustav Burchard 10 years,
  9. Henriette Louise Dorothee 7 years,
  10. Friedrich Conrad Diederich 5 years,
  11. Louise Amalie 3 year,

and continue: in accordance with the order given to me by the Royal Consistorio of Stade, the widow of Pastor Wyneken… was legally bound by the required guardian’s oath of a mother servatis servandis as guardian of her abovementioned 11 children.

When the report of this administration of the oath arrived at Stade, the Bailiff was reprimanded that he had not required the widow to renounce her female legal benefits as pertaining to the secundis nuptiis! Plainly speaking: The widow should commit herself not to remarry! That was the point where the bailiff lost his patience: I have never heard of such a thing that a mother who wishes to or should become guardian of her children has to renounce the secundis nuptiis, i.e., has to confirm that she does not intend to remarry.

Only if she should indeed remarry, other guardians would have to be appointed. In the Brem and Verden regions, certain things are different from other provinces of this land in terms of criminal and civil justice, the bailiff adds; his colleague, bailiff Ostermeyer, also proceeds in this manner. Mejer ends: I do expect… respectfully, that you will not unnecessarily require me to administer the oath in a second time, since this would, of course, always be difficult for me. Thus, bailiff Mejer on December 27, 1815. An answer from Stade has not been preserved.

Dr. W. Jarecki

Translated from the German original by Marion Schiffer, Germany

A breakthrough can make you feel so very elated!

After twenty years of wondering how all the scraps of information I have about my Biltz ancestors fit together, I’ve finally hit pay dirt!

My Franz Julius Biltz (1825-1908) was my great great great grandfather. He was born in Mittelfrohna in Saxony, Germany and emigrated to Missouri in 1839 with his older half-sister Louise Völker, who had joined the “Saxon Emigration” that formed the beginnings of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Franz became a pastor, and died in 1908 in Concordia, Missouri.

He led a very exciting and sometimes dangerous life. He had severed ties with his German family when he sneaked out of Germany at the age of 12. Years later he sought to reestablish ties to his German kin and this correspondence is still in existence. The letters name names and places but unfortunately do not go into great detail about how the various names mentioned are actually related. After all, both the writer of the letters and their recipients knew who everybody was.

Over the last few months I have been trying to make sense of all the tantalizing bits of information I have gathered. A few weeks ago I decided to try to get in touch with the archives for the region around Mittelfrohna. After many agonizing weeks of silence I finally got a response from the archivist. He put me in touch with a genealogist who lives very close to Mittelfrohna and who happens to be familiar with the family.

This genealogist wrote me by e-mail last weekend and you can imagine how thrilled I was when she confirmed some of the relationships I had deduced. But the greatest thrill was to see the name of Franz Julius’ father and mother, correctly identified as the father’s second wife. These were definitely the people I was looking for.

The genealogist provided me with a good amount of new information that I can already add to my database, including the name of Franz Julius’ grandfather and names of uncles and aunts that I had previously not known about. She offered to go look at the church books and other records for me for a small fee. You can bet that I’m going to take her up on this offer!

I still have to process the information she’s already sent me, and I will have to do the same with the results of the research she will be doing for me. I will be sharing the information I find out as soon as it’s all in. Aside from the members of the Martin L. Wyneken family like me – the little girl Franz Julius is holding in the photograph above grew up to be Mrs. Martin L. Wyneken I – there are a number of other Biltz descendants that I have been in touch with throughout the years. I will definitely get in touch with them with the new information.

Another little “family reunion” in Freiburg

Fifteen years ago when my family was vacationing in a town on Lake Constance I drove our three children one evening half an hour or so farther eastward along the lake to visit a distant relative who lived there. We had a pleasant evening and a nice meal there and did a lot of chatting about how we were related to each other and so on. She was then, and continues to be today, interested in the family history, an interest she inherited from her father, Hans-Rolf. Years before I had corresponded with Hans-Rolf and even once talked to him on the phone. I am still very grateful to him for the information he provided me about his immediate family and his direct ancestors.

When a while back I started meeting semi-regularly with Wyneken relatives who live nearby, I immediately got in touch with Constanze to ask if she would be interested in joining us sometime. The interest was definitely there but she told me that circumstances would not allow her to make the trip for a while.

Well, the circumstances have changed and she got in touch with me recently to tell me that her mother, Waltraut, would be visiting her and that they would be interested in paying a visit to Freiburg to see the town and get together with me. The day they came was very hot but that didn’t keep us from enjoying each other’s company and chatting about numerous topics, including of course family, relatives and family history.

When I had to leave to get back to work, Constanze said she would be glad to come back to Freiburg again sometime for one of the regional Wyneken relative lunches.

Family trees in scroll form

I was very lucky that my daughter, Niki, had been visiting us for the past few months. That means she was here when the two huge trees arrived in the mail. … Boy, was I lucky!

When the trees arrived I took one look at them and said those are not very practical the way they are. When completely unrolled, they sprawl over the floor from the front to the back of the apartment. Not very easy to work with.

Knowing that Niki, as opposed to me, is practically inclined I asked her whether she would be interested in trying to set up the trees in scroll form. She gave me a noncommittal “uh-huh”, so I took heart and went online to look for a description of how to do what I was thinking of. I found several and they really didn’t look very complicated. At least for someone like Niki. I showed them to her and she started to show a little more interest. We went downtown together to look for the right materials to use for the project. We finally decided just to buy wooden curtain rods. I searched the Internet for heavy paper to attach the trees to the rods and for appropriate glue, all non-acidic so as help preserve the paper of the tree as long as possible.

Then one day Niki just sat down at the dinner table, pulled out all the materials, measuring implements and other tools, and got down to work. It was marvelous for me to watch her creative concentration. I left her alone and she called me back when she was done. I was so pleased!

A week or so later she did the second tree. Not only that, but she also created a bag to store the two scrolls when they’re not being used. You can see her at the top of this page holding everything in her arms.

Unfortunately she is no longer visiting us here in Germany because she had to fly back to the US. However, if anyone who has ordered a set of trees thinks that their trees might profit from being rolled up in scrolls like this, they might consider getting in touch with Niki to see if she would be interested in doing it for them. I asked her if she would consider it and she said sure she might, if you are willing to pay her flight to come out and visit you and give her food and board while she’s there. … So if you are really interested, just ask! Who knows, she might actually be willing to do it.